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WHAT MOMMA TAUGHT ME ABOUT GOD
God's "Mothering" Love
In Honor of my Mother, Mildred Lorene Hobbs 12/17/19 - 6/8/80. Jesus may have said, "I will ask the Father" But Daddy always said: "Go ask your mother."
Daddy always said, "Don't do what I do, do what I say." But Momma always said, "If you loved me you would do what I tell you."
That's how we begin this text, with Jesus saying to his disciples: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
That's why I think God must be a lot like my mother and probably a lot like yours, too.
Oh, not that my mother was perfect. Sometimes she came real close. But I have to admit, when I was a kid, I didn't always think so.
Recently I read this essay called "The Meanest Mother in the World"
"I had the meanest Mother in the world. While other kids had candy for breakfast, I had to eat my cereal, eggs and toast. While other kids had cakes and candy for lunch, I had a sandwich. As you can guess my supper was different from other kids' supper too. My mother was so mean that she insisted on knowing where we were at all times. You'd think we were in a prison or something. She had to know who our friends were and what we were doing. I am ashamed to admit this, but my Mother actually had the nerve to break the child labor laws. She made us work. We had to wash dishes, make the beds and learn how to cook and clean. I think my mother must have stayed awake at night thinking of things for us kids to do. And she insisted that we tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. She never let me get away with anything. By the time we were teenagers my mother was even wiser and our life became even more unbearable. She would embarrass us by insisting that our friends come to the door instead of tooting the car horn for us to come running. And she always insisted that we be home early on school nights and never let us stay out late on weekends like all our other friends. We missed so much fun. Mother was so mean that she that she refused to let us date at the mature age of 13 or 14, like so many of our friends did. Instead we had to wait until we were 16. She kept telling us that there was a lot of time - and that we needed to grow up a bit first. Mother really raised a bunch of squares. None of us was arrested for shoplifting or busted for dope. And who do we have to thank for this --- you're right - our mean old mother. I am trying to raise my children to stand a little straighter and taller and I am secretly tickled to pieces when my children call me mean. I thank God for give me the meanest mother in the world. I think that our country doesn't need a good five cent cigar. IT needs more mean Mothers like mine.
Yes, there were times when I thought my Momma was the "Meanest Mother in the World," too.
I always knew that my Momma said what she meant and meant what she said. Sometimes I didn't like that. Sometimes back then I wished she were a little more indulgent. But I realize now that Momma knew that permissiveness would lead to my becoming a self-indulgent adult.
Though Momma wasn't demonstrative about her faith, I know she prayed for me. In fact, she taught me to pray. Some of my earliest memories are of Momma coming to my bedside to tuck me in. She would read me a story from the Bible Picture Story Book and then I was to "say my prayers." "Now I lay me down to sleep...I pray the Lord my soul to keep." Then she would tuck me in and kiss me goodnight. I felt warm, safe and secure.
I think God gives us Mommas and Daddies to help children feel warm and safe and secure in this sometimes scary world. That sense of security and trust helps a child grow to be a self-confident adult. A lot of children are raised without that sense of security. I was fortunate.
Momma was also the disciplinarian in our house. None of that "Wait until your Father gets home" for her.
That part we read earlier from I Peter 3:13 reminded me of Momma when it said: "Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?" I have heard it said that most kids are really eager to do good and please their parents -- they just need it 'splained to them. Momma had to do a lot of 'splaining!
Momma made the rules and she stood by them. I came to understand that her following through on rules and boundaries helped me to know that I was cared for and it gave me a sense of security and stability. Momma didn't love me on the basis of my ability to follow her rules momma loved me no matter what -- but she loved me enough to set rules and see that I learned to follow them. Because of that I was able to learn discipline and self-control, and respect for authority.
If you love me, Jesus said, you will keep my commandments. Both Jesus and Mom knew that the rules and teachings were there for our own best interests.
I heard another preacher say that when he asked as a child what he could give his mother for Mother's Day she said, "If you love me, be nice to your brothers and sisters." I think that's what Jesus meant!
Yes, Momma was a teacher and a guide and a rule setter. But she was also a nurturer and a comforter. Momma was the one to care for me when I was hurt or ill. She knew just the right remedies for whatever was wrong. There weren't many: Merthiolate and a band-aid for a cut, alcohol rub for a fever or injury, salt water for a sore throat, mentholatum for a cold and milk of magnesia for a tummy ache. Sometimes all I needed was a kiss and a cookie. Oh, and of course, there was always the peach tree switch when I needed it, too.
Momma knew just when to help me and comfort me and when to make me get up and try again. After I became a Mother myself I realized how hard that must have been. . .to teach me to be self-sufficient and confident when it would have been easier to just do it for me. How much more difficult it was for her to teach me that certain actions have consequences, when she would rather have saved me from ever having to experience hurt or failure. Because of that I believe I was able to learn to be responsible for my actions.
And isn't that just like our Lord? Life gives us some hard lessons; but God knows how to use them to make us better persons. When Jesus was getting ready to leave this world and knew that he would be leaving his anxious disciples on their own, he reassured them by saying: "Father is going to send you another Comforter, to be with you forever."
You see, because Jesus and Mom can't always be with us, God sent the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is Christ with us. That word "Comforter" is "Paraclete" in the Greek. It means "another one just like myself" it means "one who will go along beside you." In the Roman custom, a wealthy family engaged a slave to be a "paraclete" for their children. The Paraclete was like a constant nanny for the child he would walk them to school, wait outside for them, and walk them home again. The Paraclete was a constant presence, employed to help the child, to guide the child, to monitor the child and to guard the child's life with his very own.
Now, isn't that just like a Mom?
The Holy Spirit is also Christ for us. Sometimes that Paraclete would serve as an advocate for the child. He would report to the family of the child's progress. If the child got into trouble, the Paraclete would stand before the parents and defend and be a champion for the child, pleading his or her case. In many instances, the Paraclete would even take the child's punishment!
And isn't that just like our Jesus? What a beautiful image Jesus leaves his disciples with when he tells them:
I will not leave you orphaned. I will come to you.
I remember when my mom died, I experienced a sense of loss and grief that I had never before encountered. It was a feeling of utter lostness, desolation, and abandonment. Of course, I knew she didn't abandon me on purpose. But grief is most often not rational.
God knows she would have chosen rather to live out a full life as wife and mother and child of God. But she died at a rather young age on the day of my 33rd birthday. I was an adult and a mother myself. I really thought I was prepared for her death, for she had endured so much those last few years of her illness. But when she died, I remember one terribly lonely day singing with great anguish, "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child."
God knows how that feels. You may know how it feels, too. But Jesus said, "I will not leave you orphaned." "I will not leave you desolate. I will come to you."
When he says "I will come to you" he isn't just saying he will come again on the last day. . .he is promising that he will come to them to us in the form of the Holy Spirit. You see, God loves us so much he just can't stay away from us! God wants to be in constant contact with us. Like the best of mothers, God wants to nurture us, and to grow us up to be happy, productive adults. God wants to protect us, to guide us, to instruct us, to heal us, to forgive us, to love on us and to kiss away our tears.
Now, isn't that just like some moms you know of? Oh, thanks be to moms and all the loving persons in our lives who have taught us what God is like.
And thanks be to God who has loved us with such an utterly amazing, unconditional and overwhelming love. How in the world could anyone refuse a Love like that?
Frank Schaefer, for JavaCasa Resources and the Desperate Preacher's Site, 1999